So, I just saw James Cameron’s Aliens (1986.) I know, I know, mea culpa. Part of why I started this blog is to document my journey catching up on the pop culture that everyone else knows. I actually have seen Alien but I’ve never written about it. Maybe I should revisit it…? Pfft, as if there’s any doubt, Ripley is my hero.
It’s 57-years after the events in Alien. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, DUH) is found in stasis (With Jonesy the cat, YAY!) by a salvage ship.
The Weyland-Yutani corporation dismisses Ripley’s account of the abandoned ship on LV-426 and the massacre aboard the Nostromo. In fact, Lv-426 was colonized 20-years-ago with no mention of the ship and no trouble from xenomorphs.
Ripley is called back into action when the Corporation stops receiving signals from the colony. Ripley agrees to accompany a group of colonial space marines and Burke (Paul Reiser), a representative of the corporation, in exchange for having her flight license reinstated.
They find the colony’s been massacred and the only survivor is a little girl, Newt (Carrie Henn.)
The aliens have built a nest in the colony’s nuclear reactor and instantly start picking off the marines.
As if fighting multiple aliens wasn’t hard enough, they encounter the queen alien, who’s responsible for laying all those eggs full of facehuggers.
Burke complicates matters because he’s intent on bringing sample facehuggers back to the Corporation so they can weaponize the xenomorphs.
I love this movie and Alien so much. So, so much. Ripley is one of my heroes. For all her toughness, I find her to be very down-to-earth. She doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, she isn’t a fashion-plate, she’s just a woman with a job.
This movie is pretty overtly feminist and that’s one of the reasons I like it. The Corporation would silence or ignore Ripley’s warnings but Ripley is ultimately the only one with the experience to save the marines. She’s clearly a mess when she comes back to earth. The special-edition reveals that her daughter died while she was in stasis. She also seems to be suffering from post-traumatic stress-disorder. But she also does her job and does what she can to save lives.
Women are an active part of the team sent to LV-426. Aside from Ripley, there’s Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), one of the marines’ smart gun operators, Cynthia Dietrich (Cynthia Dale Scott), the marine corpsman, and Collette Ferro (Colette Hiller), as the dropship pilot.
I especially like that Ripley is capable of kicking-ass and nurturing. She rescues Jonesy in Alien and becomes very protective of Newt. Of course, she probably misses her daughter and is transferring some of her feelings to Newt. Thankfully, Newt isn’t the Annoying Child in a Horror Movie.
She seems capable and is the only person in her colony to survive.
You can also see Aliens as a reflection of fear of foreign domination. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation wants the xenomorphs in order to maintain human supremacy. This can be seen as a larger version of U.S. fears in the 1980’s as the U.S.-Asian trade war heated up.
Finally, you can see this movie as a critique of 1980’s corporate greed. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation endangers hundreds of colonist trying to weaponize xenomorphs, and then endangered those trying to rescue the colonists.
What I like about the movie is that it’s genuinely scary. I think that the original, Alien, made it possible for there to be a movie about space-monsters that wasn’t goofy. Aliens and The Thing definitely benefit from the example set by Alien.
I don’t always agree with James Cameron’s choices but I think he’s great at world-building. Here’s Lance Henriksen as Bishop the android.
Bishop actually references Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (A robot can’t injure a human or allow a human to come to harm through inaction; a robot must obey orders given by a human unless it would cause a human to come to harm; and a robot must protect its own existence as long as that doesn’t conflict with the First or Second Law.) I love the book I, Robot so this made a robotics fangirl very happy.
Here are some cool shots of the universe that Cameron created.
You’ll notice, if you’ve seen the movie, that the ships resemble the guns the marines use. This isn’t a mission of peace.
And here’s a cool shot of LV-426.
The movie itself is a slow build. You don’t even see LV-426 until after the first half hour. The movie starts with militaristic drum music but progresses to eerie orchestral music as the marines are picked off. What I like is the combination of regular footage mixed with the shaky-cam footage from the marines’ helmet cameras. I think that this adds to the tension and realism of the movie.
It’s impossible to watch Aliens without thinking of Avatar. They’re both similar movies in the sense that they show the effects of corporate greed. The aliens in both movies are like opposite sides of the same coin.
Honestly, I thin that Avatar sacrificed plot and character in exchange for the awesome visuals. Mostly, as someone of native descent (Cheyenne), I find the depiction of the Na’vi to be deeply patronizing. There’s something I hate so much when Caucasians portray native peoples as possessors of some deeper knowledge. Native peoples are just as capable of being awful as any other humans. During the 17th century colonization of America, the Narragansetts sided with the English to defeat the Pequots, despite the fact that it would have been in their long-term interest to band together versus the outside threat. I don’t see why this should differ for non-human sentient beings.
But I digress. My main point is that Aliens is actually a scary movie. It’s definitely worth a watch, despite the bipedal aliens.